The ICJ notes that a number of threats and intimidating statements aimed at members of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, were made during the election campaign period in Kenya.
Now that the elections ordered by the Supreme Court after nullification of the initial elections in Kenya have been concluded, it is important for Kenyan authorities to reaffirm commitment to separation of powers and guarantee the security of judges and the independence of the judiciary in the country, the ICJ says.
On Monday, 30 October 2017, the Indepedent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Kenya declared President Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the October 26 repeat polls.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is widely reported to have been heavily critical of the Supreme Court for annulling the 8 August 2017 presidential election on a “technicality”.
It is also reported that he promised to “fix” the bench if re-elected.
The President is also reported to have said he would deal with Chief Justice Maraga, but did not however define the form of action he would take.
Similar sentiments have been attributed to Deputy President William Ruto. It’s unclear at this stage whether these statements should be dismissed as political rhetoric on the campaign trail or warrant further consideration.
However such utterances and threats on the judiciary by senior government officials may be inferred as an attempt to intimidate or unduly influence the bench.
“These threats coming from the highest authorities hinder the ability of the courts to perform their duties, which are indispensable for the rule of law and fair administration of justice in the country,” said Arnold Tsunga, ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme Director.
“Judges must be able to exercise their duties freely, independently and impartially, or else the rule of law in the country will be eroded, and with it, effective protection of the human rights of the Kenyan people,” he added.
The ICJ recalls that the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provide that judges must be able to perform their professional duties “without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason” and that governments have a responsibility to secure this guarantee.
Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights also imposes an obligation on Kenya to establish an independent judiciary.
Arnold Tsunga, Director of ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme, t: +27716405926, e: arnold.tsunga(a)icj.orgNewsWeb stories